Holtzman gets National Organization of Women backing, unveils plan to protect abortion rights

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Former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman announces National Organization for Women endorsement in Foley Square. Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

On the heels of winning the backing of the New York Daily News Editorial Board, former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman Monday announced her bid to represent the new 10th Congressional District also has the support of the National Organization for Woman (NOW).

“I’m very proud to be accepting the endorsement of Now New York City,” Holtzman, the youngest woman elected to Congress in 1972, told reporters. “It’s an important organization, fighting for women’s equality and women’s rights. Not to mention reproductive rights. For as long as anyone here can remember, we would be nowhere without the support of the National Organization for Women and its local branches.”

The former congress member – who also had stints as the Brooklyn district attorney and city comptroller – announced the endorsement with NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio as well as campaign volunteers and staffers in Foley Square Monday morning.

Holtzman, who said she was inspired to jump into the packed race at the age of 80 due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down Roe v. Wade, also rolled out her 10-point plan for protecting abortion rights should she win the Aug. 23 primary to represent the lower Manhattan and north west Brooklyn district.

“The reason that I am running for Congress is that the U.S. Supreme Court is now threatening the rights of all women,” Holtzman said. “And of course, has put a target on the backs of all Americans. Because if you can take the rights away of more than half the population, then no one is safe. This Supreme Court is a danger to Americans, and we need someone in Congress who is going to stand up to it.”

Ossorio said it is Holtzman’s experience from her years in Congress dealing with this very issue that makes her the best candidate for the job.

“There is one thing that every New Yorker who will be voting on Aug. 23 needs to know: that Liz Holtzman day-in-and-day-out, will fight for your rights to control your body,” Ossorio said. “She will protect the most marginalized among us and she will take it to the mat for anyone who tries to abuse power. That’s what she has done in her life and that’s what she will continue to do.”

The court’s decision allows several right-leaning states to either significantly limit or outright ban abortion, now that Roe is no longer preventing them from doing so. As a recent example, Holtzman pointed to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signing a near total ban on abortion into law Friday minutes after its passage by the Indiana state legislature.

“This is such a dangerous time,” Holtzman said. “We saw what happened in Indiana. We know that other states are poised to implement total abortion bans. We cannot allow that, we have to respond. We have to protect women. It’s almost like the Underground Railroad in slavery times. But this time we have the federal government and huge numbers of people in the private sector. We will not stand for treating women as second class citizens.”

The plan includes ideas like appointing a  “Women’s Health Care Czar” in the White House, instituting a “Legal SWAT Team” in the U.S. Department of Justice, forming a “State Referendums Task Force” and pushing to codify abortion rights in the constitution.

The Women’s Health Care Czar, Holtzman said, would coordinate federal agencies to counter state level policies that violate women’s constitutional or statutory reproductive health care rights. Holtzman envisions the Legal SWAT Team as a group of attorneys working under the Justice Department that would bring legal challenges against those same states.

The State Referendum Task Force, Holtzman said, would develop and fund public information campaigns to counter referendum votes to ban abortion in states that are holding them. Last week, through a referendum vote, Kansas voters overwhelmingly shot down a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in the state.

“Referendums are going to be put forth as they were in Kansas,” Holtzman said. “And we have to be ready to coordinate and work and fund the response to referendums that are going to cut off women’s rights.”

The former congress member also called for a financial fund for women seeking out-of-state abortions, organizing with the legal community to protect doctors who perform abortions from liability and setting up a 1-800 hotline to provide information on abortion services.

In response to a question from PoliticsNY, Holtzman said she believes all of this can be done in the House because Republicans aren’t likely to retake the majority in November. Holtzman said PoliticsNY’s question of how these policies would pass in a Republican-controlled House is a “very hypothetical question.”

“I think Democrats around the country are aroused,” she said. “I think Republicans are repulsed at what the Supreme Court has done and what [former President Donald] Trump proposes. So, I wouldn’t count on having Democrats lose the House or the [U.S.] Senate. In fact, quite the reverse. I think what we saw happen in Kansas is an amazing comment of Americans rejecting the MAGA (Make America Great Again) agenda. The abortion agenda. Because in the end Americans, whether they’re conservatives or liberals or progressives or whatever, do not want the government to control their bodies.”

Holtzman wasn’t the only candidate in the crowded District 10 field to start the week off with a powerful endorsement. Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou (D-Manhattan) announced Monday that she has the support of city Public Advocate – and former gubernatorial candidate – Jumaane Willams, who’s the first citywide official to endorse in the race.

Also running for the open seat are City Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-Westchester, Rockland Counties) Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (D-Brookly) and Dan Goldman – lead counsel in Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Early voting for the Aug. 23 primary begins Saturday, Aug. 13.